SHARON: Welcome, DJ. Could you tell us how long you’ve been a tutor for literacy?DJ: It's been about 5 or 6 years since I started as a tutor.
SHARON: How did you get involved in tutoring for the Literacy Council?DJ: My parents were very involved with the Literacy Council in Hamilton, Ontario. My mother was a tutor and my father was on the Board of Directors. I knew a lot about the program from them. When I retired, I was looking for a volunteer opportunity and I knew that there was a strong Literacy Council in Huntsville.
SHARON: What qualifications did you have to become a tutor?DJ: I am a retired teacher who worked with adults in Toronto. Some of my former students had never learned to read or write, so I was working in the literacy field.
SHARON: Is there any special training you had to undergo?DJ: The Literacy Council provides several training opportunities for tutors. They have an excellent program of four afternoons that gives you the basics of identifying the student’s needs and how to plan lessons. There are wonderful resources available at the centre- books, CD's, the internet - to help you plan your lessons.
SHARON: Do you have a specialty?DJ: Yes. I work with the English as a Second Language students in our program, as I was doing in Toronto before I retired. I work with small groups of students sometimes, but many tutors work one on one.
SHARON: Do you teach the same students every week?DJ: Yes, I meet regularly with the same students.
SHARON: How many times to you tutor per week?DJ: At the moment, I am able to meet with my students once a week. In the past, I tried to meet twice a week. This helps the students move ahead more quickly.
SHARON: Do you have a message or advice you’d like to share with people who are interested in becoming tutors for their local literacy chapter?DJ: Tutoring is a fun experience. You are learning along with the students as you explore their literacy needs. They may need to read manuals for work. Their goal could be learning to read so they can read with their children. Literacy impacts all parts of your life and individuals need to achieve a level of literacy that fits their own life. That's what makes it interesting. To be a tutor you don't really have to have a background in teaching. We have tutors who work with computer literacy. Other tutors work with mathematics. Some of our literacy students are upgrading to go into college programmes. You just need to be interested in working with people and enjoy exploring something new. There is lots of support for tutors.
SHARON: One more question, DJ, but first, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to educate my readers on the importance of literacy tutors and the role you and other tutors play in our community. I saved the best for last – as a tutor, what do you take away from this experience?DJ: I always look forward to my weekly tutoring. The students are always so eager to learn and so appreciative of your help. In preparing for the lessons, I'm always learning new ideas and facts related to the topics that we are covering. It is especially interesting working with people from all around the world. They share their culture with you and you get to share Canadian culture with them. I believe a literacy tutor gains as much or more from the experience as the student does.
And there you have it from the perspective of a literacy tutor. If you think you’d be interested in tutoring for your local literacy chapter check on-line for the closest Literacy Council near you or go to www.abclifeliteracy.ca if you wish to learn more about empowering another person.